Business & Finance

AOL Time Warner Inc., is discussing the sale of a majority stake in its Warner Music subsidiary to EMI Group of Britain, The Wall Street Journal reported. While the talks are at a preliminary stage, a deal was expected to bring the heavily indebted media giant as much as $4 billion and may signal the start of a broader consolidation in the music industry, the Journal said.

The world's third-largest operator of supermarkets, Royal Ahold NV of the Netherlands, was reeling from the effects of plunging share prices and the resignations of its top two executives after admitting that its earnings were overstated for 2001 and 2002 by at least $500 million. Trading in Ahold stock on European exchanges was suspended after its share price fell by as much as 68 percent Monday. The company's long-term credit also was reduced to junk status by Standard & Poor's rating agency, and its accountant, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, suspended auditing, pending an investigation. Ahold owns or has a substantial stake in 9,000 supermarkets, specialty stores, and discount outlets in 25 countries, among them regional US chains Stop & Shop, Giant, Bruno's, and BI-LO, and the online food retailer Peapod.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the high-profile US buyout specialist, decided against bidding for supermarket chain Safeway PLC "for the time being." The decision leaves Wal-Mart Stores and four other competitors for Britain's fourth-largest grocer. Safeway, which has 479 stores, is expected to sell for as much as $6 billion.

Devon Energy Corp. said it is acquiring Ocean Energy Inc. for $5.3 billion in stock and assumed debt, in a deal that will create the largest independent oil and gas producer in the US. Devon, based in Oklahoma City, has more than doubled in size in recent years through a series of takeovers. Ocean Energy of Houston has extensive holdings in the Gulf of Mexico and west Africa.

An affiliate of Sprint's wireless network, iPCS Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Atlanta. At the same time, it lodged a complaint that blamed Sprint for its financial woes, alleging violations of their agreement. iPCS serves more than 235,000 cellphone customers in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska.

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